“Works Like a Charm”
Submitted by brian on Tue, 12/06/2011 – 1:03am
As you may have seen, the initial reviews of republic wireless are coming in. We’re glad to read that professional testers and many of our earliest members appreciate the technology and that it’s working for them. Of course, we always can and want to make it even better, and we are.
Equally, while the product technology "works like a charm" (in many ways, at least, especially this early in its life), we know very well that republic is not yet serving you the way that we want to. Some of you have noticed this, either as a silent and patient observer, or an impatient voice demanding that we improve.
Either way, we thank you for your support! We’re very open with you and strive to communicate what you can expect from us (or should not). For example, see our updated Order FAQ and new My Account FAQ. Sometimes we let you down. Our growing community pays attention and holds us accountable. That’s very healthy. Let’s keep it up.
By way of update, since my previous post we have directed our efforts to the following main areas:
- Cleaning up our order and account data in the wake of our systems failures under the strain of high demand on launch day.
- Refining our start-up fulfillment processes as we ship out phones according to the estimated ship date schedule we communicated to you.
- Listening to product and technology feedback and using that directly in our ongoing engineering efforts.
- Answering questions and solving individual issues ranging from concerns about your order, to trouble signing into the My Account portal and clarifying phone number and porting preferences.
- Reassessing and building systems, processes, and staff to prepare to serve you more effectively and more efficiently
Our progress in some of these areas is obvious, while in others it remains in the background. There are hard tradeoffs to be made at this stage of building our company. Being a small team, moving forward in one area often limits us (and unfortunately, you) in another.
An Example: Numbers
The process of issuing phone numbers is a great example of this dynamic. Prior to launch, we were well aware that, ideally, people would want to have a choice of numbers. Our buyflow didn’t include that step for many reasons, one being the systems complexity involved. We chose to launch earlier than we otherwise would’ve with that feature, knowing we’d add it later.
That’s a good indicator of the kind of company we are. We’re lightweight and active. We defeat inertia. We develop and launch, listen, think, rinse and repeat. The perfect is not the enemy of the good here. That causes some problems, and sometimes makes us look bad, but we accept that as the price of learning more from the market, faster.
So we shipped without a sophisticated number management system, with a resulting suboptimal user experience in that dimension and a dozen others. That has led to some disappointment for some of you whose orders were delayed past the estimated ship date we communicated. It will also lead us to communicate additional delays soon because we’re now writing code to engineer around the new limitations we’re discovering. That, of course, takes additional time even as we design, build, and test in short, focused cycles. Fortunately, the same engineering work that enables us to assign more numbers, more quickly in the short term also provides the foundation we need to support a better buying experience for the long term.
Being in beta, our main purpose now is to advance the core product technology while we build the supporting systems around it, all of which would be necessary to launch a full commercial offering next year. Of course, not everyone has the same perspective. The US consumer (I include myself here) is the most demanding in the world, and generally that’s a good thing. We’re not shy about what we want, how we expect things to be, and we want it all... now! That ultimately makes for competitive companies and great products.
That’s how our company is being built, in the open, listening to what you want and what you expect, and engineering great user experiences out of real-world problems, gradually, one at a time. This is true for porting, self-managing your account, adding phones and many other features you can expect from us as we progress.
The first few weeks after launch were full of long days and time away from our families. Thanksgiving provided a welcome rest and chance to clear our heads. Since then we’ve been assessing and planning our next steps. Here’s a quick rundown of what we’re working on and what you can expect:
- Hiring! We’ve created great new jobs here in Cary, NC. Know someone who’d be a fit? Send them our way (check out the Jobs page).
- Updating estimated ship dates. Later this week, you should expect an email at minimum confirming or in some cases communicating a date change of up to one week. Note, even when we have calculated revised estimates, the new dates may not be reflected on the My Account portal. Some of the infrastructure investments we’re making in that area preclude updating your order data. Please don’t be surprised if we temporarily remove the “estimated ship date” feature altogether.
- Opening up the “How You’re Doing” feature on members’ My Account portal, enabling you to see your daily Wi-Fi offload percentage and cellular footprint.
- Initiating the porting process for those interested in transferring your existing number from another provider. There’ll be more information on the procedures to come. You’ll have control over the timing. Regardless of what you selected at the time of your order, we won’t port your number without specific, additional authorization from you to do so.
- Beginning to contact those of you with incomplete orders who have confirmed your interest and are awaiting to complete them with payment. Note that we’re waiting to start this process until we’re ready to update estimated ship dates. We estimate that contacting everyone individually will probably require two to three weeks.
As part of these efforts and in parallel with them, we’re continuing to refine our product and prepare for general commercial release early next year. For more detail on the milestones leading to that point, check out our new Beta Milestones page. We’ll update that content with dates and more information as we continue moving forward.
Until next time, thanks for your continuing interest, support, and patience as we develop republic into the kind of company we’re all hoping it can be, and that we know it can be. As always, if you have thoughts about republic, or more broadly about the entrepreneurial journey we are on, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I enjoy hearing from you.